Friday, 31 December 2021
Thursday, 30 December 2021
The Rescue: Disney+ Review
Director: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Free Solo's directors take on a story that everyone knows the resolution to - but it robs none of what transpires on the screen of its urgency and compelling nature.
In June 2018, when the Wild Boar soccer team became trapped by monsoon weather in the extensive and labyrinthine cave Tham Luang in Northern Thailand, the world watched hoping for a miracle.
For over 2 weeks, the boys and their coach were trapped, threatened by potential oxygen loss and rising rain waters pouring through into the caves. And still the world watched - as did the directors in the aftermath, feeling there was a film with high stakes to be told here.
But what could be a case of a mawkish and almost manipulative documentary becomes something so utterly compelling and intricately told that you'll almost forget you know exactly how it ends.
Using second hand footage, and clever graphics to show the intricacy of the caves, as well as a sprinkling of talking heads from those involved in the rescue, directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi carefully tell the sickening race-against-time story of the volunteer divers brought in from abroad.
It's in the interviews from Rick Stanton, John Volanthen and Aussie Richard Harry Harris that you get the true sense of what lay ahead for them and what they add to both the archival footage and the reconstructions is something utterly gripping.
"I've seen chaos, but not on this scale," one of them laments of the scene at the cave, and what the directors do is shape that chaos into something that becomes inspiring and so engrossingly told, that even though you know the outcome, you can't help but have your heart in your mouth as the end nears.
In fact, it's in the final rescue that the enormity of what lay ahead for the rescuers is tactfully and carefully laid bare. Scenes of boys being drugged, fitted with masks and pushed under water are frighteningly nightmarish in this doco, even though none of it is played for drama. The grim reality of the preparations are forensically mentioned, again showing the directors' flair for covering as much of this whirlwind as they could.
Whilst it's a shame The Rescue doesn't have anything from the families and the kids themselves other than archival footage, it does become a salutation of the unsung heroes of the operation - and a reminder that sometimes, just the careful construction of a story can prove to be utter dynamite for movie goers.
The Rescue is streaming on National Geographic through Disney+ on December 31.
Wednesday, 29 December 2021
House of Gucci: Movie Review
Cast: Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Jared Leto, Salma Hayek
Director: Ridley Scott
From its animalistic sex scene atop on an office table on a construction site to its laughably insulting Italian accents that at times feel like they're from 80s UK sitcom 'Allo 'Allo, Ridley Scott's House of Gucci is a high serving of cheese with a side order of tonal disorder to feed proceedings.
Driver plays Maurizio Gucci, the ostracised heir of the Gucci family business, who's cast aside when he begins a relationship with Lady Gaga's Patrizia Reggiani. With his disapproving father (an increasingly gaunt and almost vampiric Irons, replete with sunken cheeks and sallow eyes) in the rear view mirror, Maurizio forges a more normal life.
But Patrizia believes he's entitled to his birthright, and begins to whisper in his ear about power grabs, leading Maurizio into the world he once shunned and the family fights he wanted to avoid.
High on melodrama, draped in elements of camp, House of Gucci's 160 minutes outing is the kind of film that used to be labelled with the word "folly" and all those within condemned to be part of a cult classic for years to come. But as it oscillates between high soap opera and revenge drama, Scott fails to find a balance to walk the two, leaving it more squarely in the kind of territory that renders it neither fish nor fowl.
It doesn't help that Adam Driver is playing a straight dramatic lead in a film that's not straight at all; equally, Lady Gaga's spirited and fiery performance as the ambitious Patrizia keeps the cylinders firing in a film that they deserve better from.
Jared Leto's weaselly, eccentric and crazed Paulo Gucci is the perfect example of what House of Gucci does right - and wrong. With an accent that woulda makea your momma blush, his Paulo is the kind of figure that should have been the tragic heart of the film; a character whose descent into irrelevance from the betrayal of others around him in the world of excess would have fuelled a film alone. But he emerges as a figure of comedic fun, fuelled by a rift powered by his father (an OTT, blusterous Al Pacino) - a clear sign that Scott and the script are less interested in depth, and more keen on shallow character once overs.
That's some of the problem with the House of Gucci.
Despite all the 80s music cues and the occasionally eye-dropping couture, the character beats feel off - even for a 160 minute film. Developments occur because the director and writers feel they should, rather than a naturalistic build of dramatic resonance.
Ultimately, the House of Gucci is a film that feels like it's going to cement its place in history. There will be fevered fans of its fripperies and vehement deniers of any of its charms - but it will be director Ridley Scott who emerges from the House of Gucci with his reputation sullied. It's a film of tonal mistakes, a film of confused identity and a film which may long term hurt its director most of all.
Tuesday, 28 December 2021
Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Film Review
Monday, 27 December 2021
Best Sellers: Movie Review
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Sir Michael Caine, Scott Speedman
Director: Lina Roessler
Essentially an odd couple road movie about a washed-up author and a struggling publishing house head, Best Sellers offers some easy laughs, a terrific performance from Aubrey Plaza and everything you'd expect from a cantankerous Michael Caine.
Plaza is Lucy Stanbridge, whose publishing empire is on the verge of falling to a takeover and who needs one big hit to pull her back from the brink. When she discovers that former cult writer Harris Shaw (Caine) owes them a book from an old contract, she chases it up and reluctantly, he's forced to deliver.
Believing this is her shot, Lucy sets up a book tour for Shaw and the two set across America to sell it - but the nihilistic Shaw is determined to ruin every shot, from drink-swilled appearances to urinating on his book in public. However, the nihilism backfires, and soon Shaw is a cult hit....
Best Sellers does little to challenge perceptions, but delivers a feisty performance from Plaza as Stanbridge, someone who's struggling to find her place out of her father's shadow and who finds an unwanted father figure in Caine's cranky Shaw.
Veering more into safe territory than anything truly challenging, and with Caine pretty much phoning in a performance that you'd expect from the magnificent maestro, Roessler's film does exactly what you'd expect from its mismatched duo road trip.
It's fairly formulaic in parts too, with a few sporadic laughs coming mainly from Shaw's insistence on avoiding his contractual obligations. (A confrontation with Carey Elwes' book reviewer being one of the highlights.)
But Book Sellers can't avoid the mawkish and in its final third settles for a more maudlin and emotionally manipulative approach that serves to reinforce all of the cliches and conventions of its story as the curmudgeon reveals his true colours.
Book Sellers isn't a best seller by any stretch of the imagination and a final twist doesn't hit any of the heights it aspires to. Ultimately, it's an easy, but forgettable watch that's less of a cinematic page-turner and more a celebration of a great relationship between its two stars on screen.
Sunday, 26 December 2021
Swan Song: Film Review
Saturday, 25 December 2021
Friday, 24 December 2021
Being the Ricardos: Film Review
Thursday, 23 December 2021
What's on Shudder in January 2022
WHAT’S STREAMING THIS JANUARY
IN NEW ZEALAND
NEW MOVIE PREMIERES AND NEW SERIES
PLUS NEW ADDITIONS TO SHUDDER’S GROWING LIBRARY,
INCLUDING GENRE CLASSICS AND RECENT FAN FAVOURITES
NEW SHUDDER ORIGINAL & EXCLUSIVE FILMS
For the Sake of Vicious – Shudder Exclusive
New Film Premieres 6th January
Romina, an overworked nurse and single mother, returns home from her late shift on Halloween night to find a maniac hiding out with a bruised and beaten hostage. When an unexpected wave of violent intruders descends upon her home, the trio realise that the only way out of the situation is to work together and fight for their survival. Starring Colin Paradine, Lora Burke, Nick Smyth. Directed by Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen.
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror -
Shudder Exclusive New Documentary Premieres 10th January
From writer/director/co-producer Kier-La Janisse comes "a seductive mega-text" (Indiewire) through the history of folk horror, featuring clips from over 200 films and interviews with more than 50 filmmakers, authors and scholars that explore the rural roots, occult creeds and cultural lore that continue to shape international cinema. An "astounding achievement" (Screen Anarchy) that Rue Morgue calls "an unprecedented journey into where folk horror has been, where it's going and ultimately what it says about humanity." Audience Award Winner SXSW 2021 and Fantasia International Film Festival 2021, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched has been hailed as "brilliant" (AV Club) and "mind-blowingly epic" (Film Threat) and stands as perhaps the definitive genre documentary of our time.
Written, directed and co-produced by: Kier-La Janisse
The Last Thing Mary Saw – Shudder Original
New Film Premieres 20th January
Southold, New York, 1843: Young Mary (Stefanie Scott, Insidious Chapter 3), blood trickling from behind the blindfold tied around her eyes, is interrogated about the events surrounding her grandmother’s death. As the story jumps back in time, we witness Mary, raised in a repressively religious household, finding fleeting happiness in the arms of Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman, Orphan), the home’s maid. Her family, who believe they are seeing, speaking and acting on God’s behalf, view the girls’ relationship as an abomination to be dealt with as severely as possible. The couple attempts to carry on in secret, but someone is always watching, or listening, and the wages of perceived sin threaten to become death, with the tension only heightened by the arrival of an enigmatic stranger (Rory Culkin, Lords of Chaos) and the revelation of greater forces at work.
Directed by Edoardo Vitaletti.
Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster – Shudder Exclusive
New Documentary Premieres 27th January
Beginning just before his debut as Frankenstein’s creation, Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster compellingly explores the life and legacy of a cinema legend, presenting a perceptive history of the genre he personified. His films were long derided as hokum and attacked by censors. But his phenomenal popularity and pervasive influence endures, inspiring some of our greatest actors and directors into the 21st Century – among them Guillermo Del Toro, Ron Perlman, Roger Corman & John Landis all of whom and many more contribute their personal insights and anecdotes. Directed by Thomas Hamilton.
NEW SHUDDER SERIES
Etheria: Season 3
New Series Premieres 18th January
Etheria Season 3 takes viewers to strange new worlds.
With episodes directed by women about medieval warlords and magicians, musical androids,
apocalyptic western gunslingers, inescapable time loops, dead body buddy comedies,
middle-aged female mercenary assassins, homicidal hairstylists, demented surreal slashers
and spare body parts.
As a companion to the streaming premiere of Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, the definitive documentary on folk horror, Shudder is proud to present a collection of films in the genre,
including new additions Alison’s Birthday, Edge of the Knife and Eyes of Fire on 11th January, along with City of the Dead, The Hallow, Impetigore, Jug Face, The Last Wave, Messiah of Evil, The Noonday Witch and Prevenge, already available as part of Shudder’s movie library.
NEW ADDITIONS TO SHUDDER’S LIBRARY
After getting a car ride from an unknown man, Lisa wakes up in a tube.
On her arm is strapped a bracelet with a countdown. She quickly understands that every 8 minutes,
fire burns an occupied section. She has no choice but to crawl into safe sections to survive.
To know why she’s there and how to get out, Lisa will have to face the memories of her dead
• The Source of Shadows
A series of stories woven together by one of our most primal fears, the fear of the unknown.
• Eyes of Fire
A preacher is accused of adultery, and he and his followers are chased out of town.
They become stranded in an isolated forest, which is haunted by the spirits of long dead Native
• Alison’s Birthday
Getting its first official release since the VHS era, this Australian paranormal cult is unearthed!
During a Ouija board session with her teenaged friends, 16-year-old Alison gets a message
from beyond the grave not to go home for her 19th birthday.
Fast forward three years later to the week of her 19th: she gets a call from her mother
that they’re having a party to celebrate, and they want her there alone.
• Edge of the Knife
Edge of the Knife is a feature length Haida language film about pride, tragedy, and penance.
Adiits’ii, the lead character in the film, is mentally and physically pushed to the brink of survival
and becomes Gaagiixiid/Gaagiid — the Haida Wildman. The Gaagiixiid is one of Haida’s most
popular stories, sustained over the years though song and performance.
• The Devil Below
A group of four amateur adventurers who specialize in exploring remote and forsaken places
pay a visit to Shookum Hills, a town in the remote Appalachian Mountains, which was
abandoned decades ago due to a mysterious coal mine fire.
• Green Room
A band straying into a secluded part of the Pacific Northwest stumbles onto a horrific act of
violence. Because they are the only witnesses, they become the targets of a terrifying gang of
skinheads who want to make sure all the evidence is eliminated.
Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat and a terrifying Patrick Stewart.
On a desolate stretch of desert highway, two men on the run from their past, a band on their
way to the next gig, a man struggling to get home, a brother in search of his long-lost sister and
a family on vacation are forced to confront their worst fears and darkest secrets in these
interwoven tales of terror and remorse on the open road.
With segments from the directors of Ready or Not, The Night House and Body at Brighton Rock.
• All Cheerleaders Die
When tragedy rocks Blackfoot High, rebellious outsider Maddy shocks the student body by
joining the cheerleading squad. This decision drives a rift between Maddy and her ex-girlfriend
Leena - a loner who claims to practice the dark arts. After a confrontation with the football team,
Maddy and her new cheerleader friends are sent on a supernatural roller coaster ride which
leaves a path of destruction none of them may be able to escape.
• Come True
A teenage runaway takes part in a sleep study that becomes a nightmarish descent
into the depths of her mind and a frightening examination of the power of dreams.
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